US steel tariff irrelevant to CSN sales, Brazilian mill says

The 25% import tariffs on steel products imposed by the United States government will have a minimal effect on exports by steelmaker CSN but could disturb the domestic market in Brazil, the flat steel producer said on Wednesday March 14.

The company exported 350,000 tonnes of steel products to the US last year, which was 6% of its total output, chief executive officer Benjamin Steinbruch said. But this volume is already being redirected to the domestic Brazilian market because of increasing demand, he added.

On March 8, US President Donald Trump confirmed his previously announced tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium imports into the US.

CSN is more concerned about the possible redirection to Brazil of steel export volumes previously destined for the US, and urged the government to position itself in terms of trade defense measures.

Steinbruch cited, for instance, the decision by the Brazilian government not to impose final trade sanctions against imports of hot-rolled coil (HRC) from China and Russia, despite confirmation of dumping practices.

And despite CSN’s view that US import tariffs will not have a relevant effect on its sales, some market participants foresee significant consequences for the mill’s business strategy.

The company owns a flat-rolled steel processing facility in Terre Haute, in the US state of Indiana, named LLC. This has rolling capacity for 800,000 tonnes per year of cold-rolled coil (CRC) and hot-dipped galvanized coil (HDG).

The LLC unit buys HRC locally and imports other materials, including from CSN’s operations in Brazil, to feed its production lines.

“I believe it won’t be worth doing [that] any more with the application of the new import tariffs,” a Brazil-based steel analyst told Metal Bulletin.

“This operation won’t be viable again,” a flat steel trader said.

Meanwhile, CSN believes that steel slab will be excluded from the measures because the US steel industry relies on imports of semi-finished steel products.

Thomaz Zanotto, head director of the department of trade and foreign affairs of Fiesp, São Paulo’s state industrial group, agreed with this, saying that many US-based companies are dependent on Brazil’s semi-finished steel exports.

“For example, [the ArcelorMittal-Nissan Steel joint venture] in Calvert, Alabama, took years to certificate its Brazilian providers,” he added. “They can’t shift suppliers overnight.”

Zanotto believes that there will be negotiations to exclude slab from the US tariffs. “These talks are probably occurring [already],” he said.

“If slabs are excluded from the [US tariffs], CSN could send slabs instead of finished products to the US,” another trader said.

Metal Bulletin’s weekly price assessment for Brazil-origin slab exports increased to $560-570 per tonne fob on Friday March 9.

Felipe Peroni in São Paulo contributed to this report.